UK & World News
US Troops Posed With Maimed Afghan Bodies
Pictures of American troops posing with the maimed bodies of suspected Afghan insurgents have been published in the US, prompting an apology from Washington.
In one of the images from the 82nd Airborne Division, a US paratrooper posed next to an unofficial patch placed beside a body that read "Zombie Hunter".
In another photo soldiers posed with Afghan police holding the severed legs of an insurgent bomber.
Two soldiers in a third photo held a dead insurgent's hand with the middle finger raised.
US officials quickly condemned the behaviour seen in the pictures published by the Los Angeles Times. The US Army had appealed for the newspaper not to publish the images, which date from 2010.
The incident is the latest in a series of events that have embarrassed the White House and complicated President Barack Obama's South Asia strategy.
In recent months, a video circulated of Marines urinating on corpses that were apparently those of Afghan insurgents; US troops burned copies of the Koran, prompting riots; and a US soldier allegedly went on a shooting spree in a rural province, slaughtering 17 Afghan civilians.
In neighbouring Pakistan, relations sank to a new low after a disputed November incident in which a US airstrike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. Washington has not apologised in that case.
During a meeting of Nato allies in Brussels on Wednesday, Defence Secretary Leon Panetta apologised for the latest incident "on behalf of the Department of Defence and the US government" and said "that behaviour is unacceptable".
"I know that war is ugly and it's violent and I know that young people sometimes caught up in the moment make some very foolish decisions," he added.
"I'm not excusing that behaviour, but neither do I want these images to bring further injury to our people and to our relationship with the Afghan people."
Mr Panetta said he regretted the LA Times' decision to publish some of the photos, which he said might trigger retaliatory violence against foreign soldiers stationed in Afghanistan.
White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters aboard Air Force One: "The conduct depicted in those photos is reprehensible."
Mr Carney said Mr Obama, en route to Ohio to give an economic speech, was briefed on the matter. He did not know whether the president had seen the photos, which the Los Angeles Times said it received from a soldier.
The newspaper said the photographs were of suicide bombers and insurgents. Sky News has not independently confirmed that claim.
The US Army said it launched an investigation into the 18 photographs.
And the LA Times said the photographs were taken at a difficult time for the 82nd Airborne in Afghanistan, and virtually all of the soldiers in the pictures had friends who were killed by homemade bombs or suicide bombers.